Monday, October 25, 2010

"And I need a job,/So I want to be a paperback writer."

The Song: "Paperback Writer," The Beatles. Words & music by Lennon/McCartney. Single, 1966. Track 14 of The Beatles 1, 2000.
How/when acquired: Gift CD, 2000.
Listen/watch here.

That link is to a short film the Beatles themselves made to promote the single, along with one they did for the B-side, "Rain." They were arguably the first two true music videos. "Paperback Writer" is one of Paul's, though both Lennon and McCartney are credited as usual.

The great paradox of readers' conventions and book events is that they put me way behind on my reading. I have two manuscripts to finish reading for notes and a book to finish for script coverage, and I declined some books I actually want to read at Bouchercon simply because I have no idea when I'll get to them. I don't read as fast as I used to, for reasons that range from the proliferation of distractions to the fact that the way I read has changed. It's getting harder and harder for me to turn off the editor in my head, even with books I'm reading for pleasure. Earlier this year I had to set aside an award-winning debut novel because I could not restrain myself from picking up a red pen and slashing away at needless words.

A good bit of my living comes from aspiring authors, and I'm always excited to find new good work. But I worry, coming away from Bouchercon, about aspiring authors who are more interested in being read than in reading. I heard more than one say he or she was too busy writing to read, and that alarms me. I also worry about the aspiring writers who count on being able to support themselves by writing fiction, because only a fraction of the published novelists I know can do that. A couple of my friends do very well, but the vast majority still have day jobs, even with multiple titles in bookstores.

It's a great leap and a lonely effort to sit down and write a book. It's a hero's journey, and money isn't enough reason to do it, even if you sell it for hundreds of thousands of dollars — which about as likely as winning the lottery, in that we all know someone who has, but it wasn't us. It has to be about something more important, or you're almost bound to be disappointed.

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